The Last of the Mohicans | Study Guide

James Fenimore Cooper

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The Last of the Mohicans | Chapters 23–24 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 23

The appearance of Gamut and Heyward frightens the Huron children. Gamut leads Heyward to the council lodge. Heyward convinces the chief he is a healer who has come in peace.

A commotion from a returning war party interrupts the meeting. Two captives, one a Huron and the other a Delaware, are taunted and forced to run a gauntlet of knives and clubs in order to earn the right to have their fate judged by the council. Heyward realizes the Delaware captive is Uncas. The council determines the young Huron warrior, Reed-that-bends, is a coward for running away from battle. He is condemned to die and executed.

Chapter 24

Heyward speaks briefly to Uncas and then searches for Alice. After a Huron asks Heyward to cure his relative by driving out an evil spirit, Heyward agrees because he believes he can imitate healing rituals he has witnessed.

Magua returns from moose hunting and comes to the council lodge. Magua suggests Reed-that-bends can help carry the moose back to the settlement but finds out the warrior has been killed. Magua sees Uncas and reveals him as being "le Cerf Agile" since Uncas's reputation as The Bounding Elk precedes him. Magua passionately recites the wrongs Uncas has committed against their people, and Uncas is condemned to die in the morning.

After the council meeting, Heyward is led to a cavern where the sick woman is kept. A friendly bear accompanies him. Heyward finds Gamut at the woman's bedside singing a hymn. Gamut stops singing because he thinks the bear is trying to sing, too. Gamut gives Heyward an important message and abruptly leaves the cavern.

Analysis

These chapters give the reader insights into Native American customs and rituals. Chapter 23 describes a trial and execution and underscores what values Native Americans hold dear. After running a gauntlet of armed members of his tribe, a young warrior is punished for cowardice. Chapter 24 describes how Native Americans deal with illness and healing. The Hurons place a sick woman in a healing lodge, where a medicine man will exorcise evil spirits from her body.

The symbol of the cavern appears in Chapter 24. The cavern to which Heyward is taken is a refuge where the sick woman is brought so that "her tormentor would find more difficulty in making his assaults through walls of stone."

Chapter 23 introduces gothic elements of horror into the novel. For instance, Cooper describes the Hurons who assemble for the purpose of judging the young warrior: "The forms in the background, looked like unearthly beings, gliding before the eye, and cleaving the air with frantic and unmeaning gestures." The imagery conveys the dark and deathly mood associated with gothic fiction.

Both chapters move the plot forward. Characters who have been driven apart are reunited. Heyward and Uncas are reunited in Chapter 23, and Heyward and Gamut are reunited in Chapter 24.

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